How This University of Cincinnati Club Is Bringing Birds of a Feather Together



One popular outdoor activity that you may not know University of Cincinnati has a club for is bird watching. Yes, that’s right bird watching! According to 10,000 Birds, “birding is the fastest growing outdoor recreational activity in the United States.” The UC Ornithology club offers many opportunities to learn about and watch birds and to participate in many birding and team building activities.

Meet the leaders:

Ashley Conway is the President & Founder of the UC Ornithology Club. When asked what her favorite bird is, she responded, “This is a difficult question for any bird-lover. There are so many cool birds out there! If I had to pick my absolute favorite, it would have to be the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.”

Elenore Lopez is the club’s treasurer and her favorite bird is a kākāpō.

Kayla Ferdelman is the UCOC Secretary and she said, “I adore all birds of prey, but especially barn owls and vultures.”

Photo courtesy to the UC Ornithology Club. Leaders Conway, Ferdelman, and Michael Soellner celebrated the beginning of the club in February of 2019.

Why begin bird watching:

According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 51.3 million Americans participate in bird watching. There are numerous enjoyable aspects involved in bird watching including gaining a greater knowledge of wildlife and having a hobby that you can enjoy just about anywhere.

“I enjoy bird watching because it is an opportunity to be in nature and see more than what is seen at a first glance,” said Ferdelman. “Seeking out birds makes a tree canopy literally come to life the more you look. It is also something that just brings people together. I always learn something new from the people I am birding with and get to share in the excitement of seeing something new with them.”

Lopez said, “I find [bird watching] to be therapeutic and also exciting to participate in because you never know what birds you may find that day.”

“[Bird watching] is an activity that I can do year-round and I never know what I'm going to see!” said Conway. “Birding gives me the chance to get outside and makes me feel more connected to nature. It has also strengthened my understanding of how my everyday actions impact the species we are so lucky to share this planet with.”

Photo courtesy to the UC Ornithology Club. Treasurer Elenore Lopez held a Cedar Waxwing while bird banding during the summer Ornithology course taught at UC by Dr. Canterbury.

Why you should join UCOC:

UCOC was began in February of 2019 and already includes 118 members and counting. The club is open to any UC student and has a diverse group of members who all share an interest in birding.

Conway said, “People should join the UCOC because it's a great way to meet others with similar interests, you are constantly learning and experiencing new things, and you will grasp an idea what threats birds are currently facing and how we can take steps towards conserving avian populations.”

“You gain a greater appreciation and awareness of the world around you!” Lopez said about joining the club. “Also, having the ability to correctly identify a bird through sight and or sound is a satisfying feeling.”

“Even if someone knew nothing about birds, all you need is an appreciation for them to feel like you have a place here,” said Ferdelman. “I also just adore the diversity of our group. Because birds can be enjoyed by any and all people, our members represent a really broad range in terms of major, age, nationality, sexuality, background etc. I would encourage anyone to be part of something like the UCOC - anything that brings people together around a shared interest.” She added, “The UC Ornithology Club is so much more than just a group of bird lovers.”

Photo courtesy to UC Ornithology Club. UCOC took a UC sponsored trip to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. While there, members saw multiple species of birds, including the ostrich shown above.

A variety of club activities:

The UC Ornithology Club offers many birding opportunities, such as a trip provided by UC to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, group bird walks in multiple local parks and nature sites, and banding screech and saw whet owls with Dr. Canterbury, a Professor of Anatomy at UC.

“My favorite thing the club has done was our field trip to the Cincinnati Museum Center: Geier Collections and Research Center,” said Conway. “We toured their zoology lab and saw study specimens from all over the world. We even got to see specimens that have been declared as extinct, such as the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Passenger Pigeon, and Great Auk. It was such a unique and memorable experience!”

Ferdelman shared the same favorite activity as Conway. She added, “I really look forward to just our weekly meetings too. And, of course, our bird watching hikes!”

Lopez’s favorite thing the club has done together is, “spreading more awareness about the importance of birds and the issues they are currently facing [such as] outdoor cats, window strikes, [and] global warming.”

Lopez said, “Delving into the world of birds seems like a daunting task, but you don't need to be an expert to appreciate them! Bird watching is an activity that can be appreciated no matter your age or expertise level.”

“I love this club, dude.” Ferdelman said. “When we first formed it, I had no idea it was going to become so important to me. A huge part of why it’s so successful really falls back on Ashley, our president. Her absolute passion and dedication made the UCOC come together, and her ability to make people feel welcomed invited people in. She is the reason why the UC Ornithology Club is what it is.”

And the best part is you do not have to know anything about birds to join the UC Ornithology Club! If interested, be sure to stop by the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month from 6:30-7:30 pm in Braunstein Hall 324 to see what we're all about. If you can't make the meetings, check out their Instagram and Facebook page (@ucornithologyclub) for weekend events!